Weighed Down

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. ~ Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety – Merriam Webster defines it as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Biblically the word in Hebrew has heaviness, fear, sorrow, or carefulness associated with it. Until a few years ago, I would not have said that anxiety characterized my life or was a big struggle for me. Now I may have been wrong or unaware, but certainly God has been faithful to reveal what I feel is a new struggle with anxiety to me in these last few years.

Several years ago we made a move, following steps the Lord made clear to us but still painful in the leaving of friends, familiarity, comfort, and ease. Following that move I would say that our lives entered a 3 year period where anything that could go wrong did. Medical crises, difficulty with a pregnancy and new birth, upheaval with work, uncertainty with income walked hand in hand with a new city, new friends, new routine for school. We began to hurtle from one major event to another, putting out the fires or seeking to moderate the issue, and I began to feel like the ball in a pinball machine bouncing back and forth between high stress issues without any respite. My friends who know me will probably agree that I tend to be more dramatic or animated than some, but I began to retreat into a place where I watched myself handle everything without actually engaging a whole lot emotionally. In my mind racing thoughts of what’s next, what should I do to prevent that, how can I set this up to not have repercussions seesawed along with thoughts of retreat, panic, and anger. My family was “treated” to either a high task manager or emotional mine field.

Proverbs warns that anxiety weighs a man down. To weigh down in this verse means to bow down, as in worship, to stoop. Anxiety will cause me to worship at the altar of fear, worry, control/organization, self reliance or inactivity. I will bow down, and it will not be to the only One who can help me in my need.  So how do I release or walk away from anxiety?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Reasonableness in Philippians 4 is gentleness. When I am anxious, often gentleness is the first thing to go. Anxious people aren’t often gentle or patient.  They are protective, grabby, impatient, and irritable. The posture of rejoicing despite the circumstances, pleading before the throne with thanksgiving, is hard. But as we look to the Word and worship Him, His peace is our guard, a military term for keeping watch and engaging all offensive and defensive actions necessary as a military sentinel would.

1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. As much as I don’t want to see it, anxiety links up with pride. Pride is the root cause of so many symptoms of sin, and it is the base of this one as well for me. Since the garden we have been seeking to be like God, and I am no exception. My anxiety was wrapped in the complete lack of ability to control anything going on and the deep pride within me that screamed that I should be able to handle this, that I should be able to walk this out calmly, that if I could just organize better or return to some way that had worked in the past, that I could turn this around and be the savior in these circumstances. I could not control the way my life was spinning, and it was an affront to me.  There is One who has conquered all, and He desires for me to choose the good portion as he told Martha in Luke 10. Inherent in this scripture is the link that humbling myself requires giving all my anxieties to Him, acknowledging His care for me, and allowing His timing for my life. And He will exalt, at the proper time. He will carve ways out of rock, make rough places smooth, comfort your fears, heal, lead, organize, and guide.

Many times I have quoted or heard someone quote Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And it seems like a pull up your bootstraps kind of verse, meant to exhort and make you just put all your worries down and walk well. But it’s so important to have context of what Jesus is saying when he exhorts us with this verse. Yes, this is the passage where Jesus is referencing the birds and flowers that don’t worry about their food or clothes, and he then says how much more does your Father love and care for you, the ones who are in His image. But verse 33 should be the emphasis, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When my thinking is aligned with kingdom work, anxiety can be nailed to the cross. The ability to peel off the anxiety that envelopes is related to my pursuit of Him. He will increase my understanding of what occurred at the cross, that Jesus’ death crucified my body of sin so that I would not be enslaved to it but set free from it.

I want to worship Christ, the One who has made me alive and will make me more and more in His image until the day I stand before Him. No more bowing to what I fear or what I cannot control.

 

Walking through Ephesians, 7

But that is not the way you learned Christ! –assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~Ephesians 4: 20-24

“Are you the one who’s done?” His sweet voice and eyes just asking me to explain why today has gone so horribly wrong, completely sideways of the direction I had wanted this morning. Why is it that now at such an early time I am imposing bedtime for all? I have to honestly look at him and confess, “Yes baby, I’m the one who’s done.” I have had my anger stoked, my annoyance pushed, my anxiety over impending events grown, and I’m stepping out of this day as mommy.

All I can think as I hear happy wrestling sounds from their room as daddy steps in to save the evening is that I never really stopped yesterday. I never stopped to quietly sit with the One who could have changed my heart, changed my attitude, helped me walk the rest of the day with Him. Oh, let me assure you, I was praying most of the day. But my prayers were selfish, whining laments, “God help me. They are so annoying to me” or “Lord, If I hear one more fuss or argument, I don’t know what I’ll do” And just so all confession is out there, I had had my quiet time that morning.

The ugliness doesn’t escape me, it screams at me. I urge humility yet walk pridefully, I encourage gentleness but act roughly both in word and action. My patience was false and a little scary for my people because it was fleeting and a mask over anger. I wanted quiet, I wanted ease, but I didn’t necessarily want truth. The truth is in Jesus. I didn’t want to engage Jesus the way the Spirit was urging me to. Scripture says we must throw off sin that entangles, and the honest truth is that for me, that is often a daily, minute to minute throwing off. It’s bad when my children are gently rebuking me for today and can point to the early moments of the day where I began to embrace the bitterness, wrath, anger and slander (Eph 4:31) They exhibited Ephesians 4:32 SO much better than I could have – they clung to Christ’s forgiveness, and with kindness and tenderheartedness, they walked this sinner clinging to my old self through the day.

So Jesus, once again the old self has to go – I need your peeling touch to yank off even the vestiges today that want to grow back as issues arise. Let me not go back to the old self – the worrying performer who expects perfection and slays with her tongue, pride seeping through every facet of her life. Like Aslan removed the dragon skin, remove my old self. The pain may be intense, but the result is peace and joy and abiding.

To be renewed in the spirit of my mind – this ongoing process of being renovated and reformed as we walk with Him. It’s not a one time event. The bottomless well of God’s grace matches up perfectly with the seemingly limitless ability I have to turn to my own way and be deceived by my former self. Jesus invites us to walk with him, clothed in His righteousness and holiness, not because we have earned these clothes but because He did. His life as the sacrifice for my sin defeated the darkness, alienation, and hardness of heart that is the life of the lost (of the Gentile in this passage.)

So I will confess to my children that I got dressed this morning in the filthy rags of my old self, deceived by self love and did not abide in Jesus, the truth giver, nor seek any renewing of my mind. But I will testify to the goodness of the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t let us rest in our sin, but who convicts and counsels that we may learn Christ more and more.  I want them to understand the deep love and grace of their Heavenly Father who takes away their sin and gives them a new self, new beautiful clothes of righteousness and holiness designed in His image.  His mercies are new every morning, He is so faithful. So I will humbly seek to make right with them what I let go so horribly wrong yesterday and invite them to learn Christ with me today.

 

Amen

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20-22

Yesterday was hard. There is no way around that fact – it was a grind. I found myself battling the desire inside me to retreat, withdraw, decide I didn’t care about some issue/fight/attitude simply because I was weary of all the conversations with all the people. I found my patience decreasing as I moved from interaction to interaction, as I carried just a little of my emotion from one child’s discipline into the next. So every little sin I have been called to face becomes a place where I too must battle the flesh that rises up within me.

Do you ever consider what you are doing? I mean the experience of looking in on yourself and wonder, “how in the world did I get here?” What road did I mistakenly get off on that has placed me here in the midst of all this junk, with me being the chief proponent of the junk? Have you ever just been so tired of slogging through tantrums, rivalry, disobedience, lying, selfishness and begin to wonder whether this is worth anything? does it really make a difference? Does the distant heart of a pre-teenager or the rebellious teen make you feel discouraged like it does me at times? Does anyone else hide in their closet and pretend like they cannot hear their name being called? no? just me?

I confess I do.

Many of my friends look in on me and admire or praise me. They can’t imagine parenting so many, so they assume this fantasy that I have it all wrapped up. I don’t.

But I know the One who does. And I have to keep coming back to that fact. Sometimes multiple times in the same hour, I have to preach the Gospel to myself, reminding myself that He has completed all I need. He is sovereign over all I experience. He is engaged with every interaction. It is vital that I apply the Gospel to the working out of my faith in my interactions with my kids. Because that is what mothering is – it is the working out of my faith today.

So I need to remember my position first. God has established me in Christ, anointed me and put his seal upon me and given me His Spirit as a guarantee. My establishment is apart from my actions, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

So as a mom I am established, rooted and firmly adhered to the love of Jesus Christ. This steadfast love that He has offered me compels me in the interactions with my children, both to love them that way and to instruct them in how to love with His unending love. And I have been given His Spirit as a guarantee. A down payment of all the power, wisdom, counsel, and relationship fully offered and alive in me. He is my guarantee that all the promises of God are true. 1 Peter 1:3-4 declares that His power has given me all I need for life and godliness, and He has given me his precious and great promises so that through all his promises I am a partaker in the divine nature. I am invited and welcomed to participate in His way of parenting my children, having been given all I need to be a godly parent through His Spirit within me.

So I stand (in the closet) and take a moment to speak the Truth to myself. The God of this universe deeply loves me and my child. He is far more invested in my child than I can ever claim to be, and in this moment He wants to display His great promises of steadfast love, mercy, forgiveness, presence, guidance, protection through me. I have been anointed by God to be the conduit in this moment, to display Him. Sometimes that looks like firm truth with discipline, sometimes that looks like redirection to the Word, sometimes it’s a quiet hug and tender kiss. Our children need a constant reminder of who they are and Who they need.

My response to my children in these moments is really a response to Him. You see my Amen response comes from a place of faith, certain of all Christ has done in me and will do through me because He has established me. And my response is for His glory.

 

Just swing

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” ~Luke 8:24-25

“Stop panicking and trust, Momma. God knows. Your job is to trust Him. He’s got this.” Those words from my daughter. They draw me up sharp and take my breath away.

We have one child who has a serious aversion to movement, just cannot take the swinging motion of being thrown up by her daddy. You can forget any bikes, swings, or roller coasters. She will completely panic if she feels movement-wise out of control, and you cannot convince her that you have her and will hold her safe. She’s in full out panic mode protecting herself in that moment, wildly flailing about, screaming, crying. Inconsolable if she feels as if someone bigger just took advantage of her and threw her around.

And this is me so often with God. In the last 3-4 years of life, we have had alot of crazy – illnesses, deaths, changes, births, new cities, new schools, injuries. And I feel like I have somehow gotten on a roller coaster that I never wanted to ride, and I can’t get off. I may swing high and enjoy a moment of exhilaration but the plummeting back down can fill me with such panic or fear, wondering if I will crash.

We see it in the story of the disciples out on the lake with Jesus. The storm comes that pounds and rocks the boat with such ferocity that the disciples panic. Several of these men are well seasoned fishermen who have seen storms like this before, yet they see the waters flowing into the boat, recognize the power of the storm, and are scared. The Bible recounts this story in 3 different places (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25) and in each recounting Jesus is asleep. The disciples begin to realize the boat could sink or capsize, and they wake him frantically asking him to save them. In Mark 4:38, they say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” and in the other two passages they cry out that they are perishing and ask for salvation. They are panicking!

Yet they have just spent days with Jesus watching him heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. They have listened to his teaching and marveled at the truths he taught. They have seen evidence of his power, authority, and might. But in the storm that night, I think these men absolutely thought they were going to die and then looked over and saw the peace Jesus had in his sleep and it may have just bugged them completely. They desperately wanted safety and knew the power they had seen displayed earlier was their only hope. Often when I am in full freak out mode, not trusting or believing, I want everyone else with me to feel my panic and join me in despair. But the wisdom my child offered parallels what Jesus asked his disciples. “Where is your faith?” Now my daughter can’t change anything but what she is able to do is speak words of life, reminders to redirect thought patterns to the One who is able to handle all storms, obstacles, and catastrophes. I love that Jesus in His great mercy and grace calms the storm with a word. Then He challenges the disciples’ degree of faith.

Trust – to be confident, sure or bold; refuge. Psalm 9:9-10 declares, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” and Psalm 13:5, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me.” David wasn’t confused – his heart in Ps 13 was aching, throbbing with the longing of being somewhere other than where he was. He wanted the sorrow and pain to end and joyful communion with God to be his daily walk. But then he actually stops and sees God.

I think that is the key posture I forget. In the midst of my freakout, can I calm enough to consider the One who can calm this storm, stop the madness, or do I just keep spinning? Inherent to any mother is the understanding that when your child is completely unglued, if you can just get them to look at you and listen to your quiet, calm voice, they can focus, stabilize. What do we often say to a child in tremendous angst? Sshh, listen to me, quiet, calm down, focus.  Isn’t that what our Father in heaven says to us over and over? “Abide in me,” “Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” “Set your minds on things above and not on earthly things” Scripture tells us over and over that our God cares for us like a bird cares for her young, compassionately loves us, remembers our frailties, delights in our seeking Him. And even in the boat, Jesus doesn’t give a lecture to the disciples first while they are so frightened. He calms the storm first.

The truth for David and for me is that His steadfast love offers salvation, intimacy and relationship, and hope for eternity. He has declared Himself Lord over every circumstance of my life. The question becomes do I allow Him the rightful place as Lord? Or do I seek to self-protect, denying His perfect protection? Am I like my flailing, panicked child, so fearful of the movements and changes that life brings that I lose sight of the Great Almighty, the One in whose shelter I am invited to abide? Or do I swing, trusting that He is able to control the movement? Do I remember that He has dealt bountifully with me?

Call to Me

Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it –the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

How many times have I stood in a situation or walked away from some interaction with one of my children and thought, “I have no idea what to do?” I have no idea how to discipline, encourage, love or shepherd that child right now in this moment. And most of the time then my next thoughts will begin to list all the problems that child has, all the ways he or she needs to change or be different that would help me parent them. “He needs to be more kind; she is so focused on herself; he needs to be more organized, more obedient, more helpful, more truthful,” the list can go on and on in my head. Or sometimes I have no idea why that child is behaving – I promise you, there have been many potty trained toddlers who suddenly were no longer trained and many sleeping babies who stopped sleeping for no apparent reason and many moody older kids! But God issues an invitation to pray – To come before Him, seek Him for the truth of my next step.

Praying is not an easy step for me. I just want to have the solution and be done. So often I have scrambled for methods, solutions, steps to take to fix this or help that. Until God showed me His heart in His word.

He issues an invitation to Call unto Him, to cry out before Him about what is going on in my family, my day, my children. And He follows this invitation with a promise – He will answer me and tell me the great and hidden things I don’t know.

And what I have learned through the years is that God is in the potty training! He cares about the sleepless baby (and you!) He knows why your toddler throws such fits, and He understands the depths of turmoil and angst in your preteen or teenager’s hearts. He knows these great and hidden things! He wants to show us how to love our children with His perfect love. He wants to reveal the deepest parts of them to us, so that we may gently with His love shape and shepherd their hearts, and one day they will walk with Him.

Hebrews 4:16 states, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As believers we are welcomed into the throne room of God! I pray that you understand the Gospel: that we were once lost in sin (Rom. 3:9) but Jesus came and took your sin and mine that we could be justified and saved by Him from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9) and set free (Rom 8:1-2). If this is not something you understand or would like more information about, you can contact me.

God has set a great task before you and me – to care for, lead and introduce His children to Him as we walk with them every day. At times it feels daunting. But He invites us to seek Him in this – His wisdom, His insight and His grace. I need his grace for myself because I make so many mistakes when it comes to parenting, and I need His grace to flow through me to these precious kids who need to see Him.